Mining: more protests, more deaths, some dialogue
13 November 2016
The death of a protester at Las Bambas in October has already had a strong impact on public policy, as we outlined last week, and the fear of ‘contagion’ has proved real. http://www.perusupportgroup.org.uk/article-1220.html Last week brought further significant events: further deaths at police hands, this time in La Libertad, and more mining protests in the south.
The tragic events in La Libertad have again highlighted the role of the police in handling protests and the relationship between the police and private mining companies. Two deaths occurred as a consequence of a protest against Consorcio Minero Horizonte. The company is held to be contaminating Lake Pias and failing to comply with agreements made with the community. Police used lethal force to deal with the blocking of the road leading to the mine.
The Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) has issued a strongly worded statement demanding that the Interior Ministry investigate the case and clarify who was to blame. There have been claims that the police were acting as part of a contract with the company. This is a firm that has been sanctioned no less than eight times in the last year by the Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental (OEFA) for contaminating rivers.
The fear and the reality of a Las Bambas ‘contagion effect’ have been illustrated by events last week in Cuzco, close to Las Bambas. Two companies have been affected. The Canadian company Hudbay saw protesters occupy one of its pits at the Constancia mine in Chumbivilcas on 7 November, and a second pit the following day. The company has since suspended all operations. At the same time, on 8 November, the mining camp of Anapi SAC in Quinota was taken over. The company’s mine lies some 40 minutes away from the camp, on the border between Chumbivilcas (in Cuzco) and Cotabambas (in Apurímac).
Both protests raise familiar issues. In the case of Hudbay, the community argues that the company has not complied with a framework agreement signed in 2013. It also wants the environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be revised and a contingency plan drawn up to cover the possibility of contamination in the mine’s ‘area of influence’ as operations proceed. At the Anapi mine the community is fearful of contamination of two rivers when operations there start. Protests have been going on since early October.
As we went to press, we had no further information about events at the Anapi camp. But the swift government response to the events at Constancia was indicative of the impact of protests at Las Bambas. By 10 November, two vice ministers had arrived at Constancia, the vice-minister of mines, Guillermo Shino, and the vice-minister of the interior, Rubén Vargas. A dialogue table (mesa de diálogo) was established and the occupation lifted. A further meeting is scheduled for 24 November. It is worth noting that the brokering of a temporary resolution was possible even though the occupation had not ended; up to now this has been a common stumbling block in such situations.